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A blessed Ash Wednesday to everybody!  I find the prayer for today to be a really stirring send-off into the great season of Lent:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting

this campaign of Christian service,

so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,

we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

With its images of campaign, battle, and weapons, this prayer is an explicit and vivid call to spiritual warfare.  And it tells us exactly what we need in order to wage–and win–the battle: fasting, service, and self-restraint.  This echoes and expands upon the traditional trio of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, each of which is so important, not only for spiritual warfare but for life in general.

Is it not a tremendous blessing that each year brings this season of Lent in which we can focus on deepening and growing and maturing in our spiritual lives?  Is it not an exciting time?  A kind of adventure?  The word Lent means “Springtime,” and that is a perfect name for this season of new opportunities for flourishing.

For a long time, I always thought of Lent as a dreary season of drudgery, with nothing uplifting or exciting or adventurous at all.  I didn’t see it as the wonderful opportunity that it is.  I didn’t realize or appreciate any of the rewards it can bring.  I looked at Lent through the lens of the secular world and culture: just another way the Church crushed happiness and imposed pain upon its benighted and masochistic adherents.  I much preferred the popular modern worldview that equates happiness with pleasure and goodness with feeling good.  But that worldview leads nowhere.  Follow it long enough and you may easily find yourself in the nothingness, the hopelessness, the extreme and all-consuming poverty of Hell.  Those fortunate enough (as I was), will experience a taste of Hell before it is too late and becomes an eternal dwelling.

I don’t deny that the season of Lent and the entirety of Christian life can sometimes be difficult, uncomfortable, and uncertain.  But the rewards–especially the ultimate, eternal reward of Heaven–far outshine any of the difficult spots.  And they really are just little spots when you pause to look back over where you’ve come.  Little spots amidst oceans of joy, of love, of peace, and above all, of grace.  Lent is a powerful means of unleashing those oceans!

So, let us all dare to leave behind some of our comfort and security and complacence–which make it all too easy to be self-centered–and have a successful Lent!

Brace yourselves - Lent is comingIt’s a little hard to believe, but we are a mere three days from the beginning of Lent!  I feel somewhat fortunate that I’ve already begun thinking about it; in previous years, Ash Wednesday has completely caught me off guard.

Each year, I want to observe Lent better than I did before, and this year is no exception.  I’ve been thinking about how I wish to observe this season, how I wish to practice sacrifice and discipline, self-denial and self-giving.  I don’t want to be lax.  I don’t want to approach Easter with the least regret that I could have observed Lent more faithfully and deeply.  But each year has been better–this will be might eighth Lent since returning to the Church–and each year I have become more reacclimated to the rigors of this season.  I’m no longer quite the fledgling I was.  I feel this year will be very edifying.

One simple thing that I have found helpful and motivating is Father Jonathan Morris’s Lent Challenge, “A 46-day plan for spiritual growth in mind, body, and soul.”  For each of those three areas, mind, body, and soul, he encourages that we decide on one thing to give up and one thing to do.  He will share daily messages of encouragement via Twitter and Facebook.

I also found this quotation from Pope Benedict XIV in 1741:

The observance of Lent is the very badge of Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should men grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.

This quotation speaks powerfully to me; as I’ve mentioned before, I respond to nothing more readily than to a call to arms.  I am best motivated to conduct my life well when I am reminded that how I conduct my life affects the world around me–when I remember that it’s not just about me.  It’s about what, and Whom, I stand for.  More than any other time of year, it is about carrying the Cross and following Christ toward Calvary, trembling in every footstep.  Not that we are not always called to do this, but this special season exists for our benefit, to focus us and make us stronger, to amend our lives.  It’s a special journey, a special march, a special campaign.

I pray that I might enter into this season with deep devotion and dedication, together with all Catholics.  Let us pray for each other!

(Picture source)

I think I am something of a rara avis among women.  I like war stories.  I like hearing about people’s experiences in the military.  Not to say that I don’t shudder and shrink at the brutality, the inhumanity, the pain and death and trauma.  But I like being amazed and humbled by the realization that people have been willing to put themselves in the way of those things for the sake of country and countrymen, to stand between those horrors and the rest of us.  Sometimes I hear people dismiss or disparage soldiers because war is such a tragedy, such a shame, such a burden.  They don’t consider that if it weren’t for soldiers, then all of us would be more directly impacted and imperiled by war, and we would all be forced to fend for ourselves.  War is never a thing to love or desire or be proud of.  But the soldiers and other people who suffer and endure and even sometimes overcome in extraordinary ways… these are people to be respected and admired and grateful for.  They are heroes, every one.

I know this probably sounds like a post for Veterans Day or Memorial Day.  But these thoughts shouldn’t be reserved for just certain days.  I think them often.  They inspire me.  They motivate me.  They instruct me.  They drive me.  They help me to remember that life is precious and a very dear price to pay.  They also encourage me in the spiritual life, the spiritual war, the Good Fight as St. Paul called it.

This is a war that we are all in the midst of–some are officers, some are foot-soldiers, some are pilots, some are special forces, some are spies, some are medics,  and some keep the fires of home and camp burning.  We too can be heroes.  Even if all we can do is stand our ground and declare where our loyalty lies–in this fallen world and even more fallen society, those things alone can be radical and heroic.  And like all soldiers, we put ourselves between the enemy and those who cannot or will not defend themselves.  We usually do it without any recognition or thanks–nor do we mind such things; we sometimes do it to the derision of those we long to protect.  This is what life is like in the Church Militant, the Church on her long march Heavenward.

I sometimes fear that the Church and Christianity (never mind the rest of our society) have become too soft, too self-indulgent, too complacent, too undisciplined, too indolent–and God knows I’ve been my share of it all, much to my shame and regret.  We all have chinks in our armor, after all, and the enemy is very subtle and slithery and knows just how to get though to us.  But I fear that too many of us have forgotten altogether where we are and what we’re meant to do.  We’ve forgotten our duty.  We’ve gotten so fixated upon false, watered-down notions of peace and love and tolerance and niceness and upon feeling good at all costs without the least concern for being good.  We count our own opinions, emotions, and preferences as far more important than doctrine, reason, and obedience.  We give more loyalty to moral relativism than to the natural law inscribed upon every human heart.

We’ve seen the results of this.  We’ve seen the Church splinter from within.  We’ve seen unspeakable tragedy and scandal shake her down to her very foundation.  THE enemy and those who serve him point and say, “You see?  I knew you Christians and your Church were rotten to the core.  You hypocrites!  You oppressors!  You can’t even save yourselves much less than the whole world.  Give it up!  Cast off the shackles.  Forget about your so-called sins and your so-called virtues.  Be nice to everybody and otherwise just do whatever feels good.  Go with the flow and get a life!”  They say this as if the Church herself and all of her loyal adherents were the source of all the misery and humiliation.  In fact, it is because some people within the Church have persistently and remorselessly done exactly what the enemy would have us do!

What serves the enemy most is serving ourselves.  Loyal service, on the other hand, demands that we lay ourselves down, set ourselves aside, and when necessary let ourselves be nailed to the cross!  Generosity is at the heart of all loyal service, be it in an earthly military or the Church.  Generosity steels our courage and discipline.  Generosity ignites faithfulness, obedience, and charity. Generosity enables us to be selfless.

And so, one of the most helpful spiritual practices I’ve found recently (via my confessor, who always seems to know me better than most anybody, even though he never sees my face) is this Prayer of Generosity, traditionally attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who knew a thing or two about service and obedience:

Lord God, I want to love You, not that I might gain eternal Heaven nor escape eternal Hell, but simply because You are my God. Teach me to be generous.  Grant me to give to You and not count the cost; to fight for You and not mind the wounds; to toil and not to look for rest; to labor and to ask no reward, except the knowledge that I serve my Lord and my God.  Amen.

Such simple words to pray.  And such difficult words to live by!  But pray, and it will be given, often beyond our wildest expectations.  I have found this simple prayer to be very powerful.  Transformative, really.  Exactly what I needed to call forth the heroine in me and keep me from straying from my duty, which is to serve God and my fellow man, and to reach Heaven, my true Patria.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I just want to say that I am honored to be part of the Church Militant.  I am honored that God and Church would entrust such service and duty to me.  And I pray I never completely let them down.  I pray I can stand firm until the Good Fight is finished.

Related Posts:

Love and war

Allergy fog post: In which I commiserate with Elisabeth Leseur, ramble a bit about duty, and toss in a strangely relevant anime quotation

 

Msgr. Charles Pope at the Archdiocese of Washington blog has recently posted some musings about the Church Militant.

The first ponders the question,  “Is the Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship?” Apparently, for reasons I can’t understand, some folks were offended that the Church should be described with military imagery.   So Msgr. Pope followed up today with “In Defense of the Use of Military Imagery in the Church.”

Both are good reading (as all of his posts are).

I find the military metaphor glorious, exciting, and enormously inspiring.

First of all, it’s true: we are engaged in a war, whether we like it or not.  We are all born on the battlefield, and we all die on it.  It’s not a bloody war against our fellow human beings, but a spiritual war against Satan and the forces of hell.  To deny that is extremely dangerous.  To deny that plays right into the enemy’s hands.  There’s no opting out of this war.  There’s no room for pacifism or conscientious objection.  Either you fight on the side of good, or you surrender to the side of evil.

Second, it reminds me that I am a person on a mission.  I have a purpose, I have a cause, I have people and things to protect, I have people to serve, and I have a 100% guarantee that my King is the Victor.  It stirs and ignites my soul, my will, my strength, my energy.  It makes me appreciate how precious life and humanity and our fellow creatures are.  It makes me proud, in a good way, to stand side by side with angels and saints and martyrs, as well as the people all around me here and now.  It brings forth everything that is noble and disciplined, brave and virtuous in me.  It calls me–even me–to greatness.

Not greatness or significance in any worldly sense, of course.  It brings me to the greatness and significance of who I am as a child of God.  We are all His children, and His kingdom that is not of this world is ours.  Who wouldn’t fight for that?

What is the very first step to winning any war?  Is it not simply to know that you are war?

Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, knows it and doesn’t hesitate to say it.  In April, he made it the theme of his address to the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention:

We are at war.
Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival any time in the past.

But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors – members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).

But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.

He is refreshingly frank about what it means and what it costs to wage this war:

What will happen to us if we take up this war in faithfulness?
Do you really want to know? You will be hated by some powerful people. You may be rejected by those whose approval you most desire. You will be loved and supported by some and this will be a wonderful encouragement. You will be misunderstood by many – and this can be very painful. After you have suffered a little in your battle, some will tell you that you have done nothing – or that you have done it the wrong way.

Yes, if you push – others will “push back.” We should always be very careful to obey the law. But, regardless, some will threaten you with legal action, and law suits cost money and you may suffer that difficult hardship. In the end, dear friends, if we err let it be on the side of life. Life! 4000 human lives a day!

What if I suffer greatly trying to change this tragic trajectory – through prayerful, legal, peaceful means? It is in God’s hands, and you and I are warriors for the victory of life. The stakes in terms of human life are high. The stakes in terms of human souls are even higher.

Fortunately, he also gives very practical and encouraging advice on how to survive:

How do we arm ourselves for what is first and foremost a supernatural war?
First: Unless we are living in God’s life we should not go near this battle. I don’t care if you are the strongest and most brilliant and clever person on the planet. The devil – as he has shown over and over again – will turn you inside out. If you are not fortified by the sacraments – frequent confession and worthy Holy Communion – you cannot succeed in an ultimately supernatural battle. We must live – no longer ourselves – but Christ in us. Be always in the state of grace.

Pray. Be a prayer warrior. One modern day saint said when you are going out to try to change someone’s heart determine to make your effort 80 % prayer and 20% words or actions. Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you. Pray that you will be a warrior of faithfulness and love and mercy. Remember that God often chooses the foolish to shame those who are clever.

Use the symbols and instruments of our devotion. Arm yourself with the rosary. Protect yourself with the scapular or a blessed medal. Ask for a blessing as a sign of unity in the Church in what we do: unity with the Holy Father, with your bishop, with your pastor. What I am supposed to do as bishop (teach and lead, and sanctify) I must, in turn, delegate in proper measure to my pastors. They, in turn, need you as soldiers.

Don’t worry very much about numbers. If you read the accounts of the Old Testament battles, over and over again God used a tiny misfit army to overthrow a legion 1000 times its size. In this way it is so much clearer that God is fighting the battle. We are only His instruments.

I especially like this last point about numbers. And the part about God using the foolish to shame the clever. That inspires a bit more confidence in me! ;)

Bishop Finn took up this emphasis on warfare again in responding to Debacle Day.  From an interview with The Catholic Key:

As a country we want to see an end to racial prejudice. We want a more secure peace in the world. We want sound economic justice for people. So we can’t give up on working with the administration.

But we’re fighting for our lives – literally. We are attempting to protect real unborn children by the thousands. We’re fighting for the right to exercise a rightly-formed conscientious difference with public policy. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of dragging our feet in this effort, or taking a “wait and see” approach. If we are not ready to make a frontal attack on the protection of conscience rights, the overturning of Roe v’ Wade, and the primacy of authentic marriage, we will lose in these areas. I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to these things, then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why.

The Catholic Key Blog, by the way, is probably the best source for keeping up with this extremely active and  outspoken bishop, as well as other news and commentary.

He is definitely a man to watch!  God bless him!

I was looking at an old journal of mine, and came across this little passage I wrote last October–a stressful and anxious time in my life for a number of reasons.  Among other things, I was getting ready to leave for 3 weeks to go and care for my parents, both of whom were gravely ill.

I was just thinking this morning… life is just love and war and love and war. And as I’m starting to notice about all truth, it’s not “either or,” but rather “both and.” You can’t live an authentic life by the slogan “Make love not war.” There’s no such thing as “free love.” Love is always an engagement with another… and a setting against other others. My love for God and Church sets me against fierce legions of opponents, both mortal and immortal. My love for my parents sets me against legions of my own comforts, conveniences, interests, and preferences–and one’s own ego can be the fiercest opponent of all. Love always requires choice and dedication–and rejection. Those that are rejected may or may not let you go in peace.

I’ve been under siege from all kinds of things … But I’ve made my choice, I’ve dedicated myself, and I’m sticking to my guns–by the grace of God, who is both love and the only invincible warrior.

Coming across that this morning seemed pretty timely for me.  I’ve been feeling rather besieged for the last month or so.  And people have been chiding me–sometimes kindly, sometimes not kindly–for what they perceive as belligerence and anger.  These include people who know me personally as well as complete strangers.  It’s generally been over politics and especially over my pro-life stance.  Which is pretty understandable; people on all sides of these topics are passionate and often very emotional.

What bothers me is when somebody will say, “Boy, you Catholics are angry,” or “It’s not Christian of you to say such mean things” or “Jesus said to love, not hate,” etc.  Now, it doesn’t bother me if someone is offering me some fraternal correction.  I can be inordinately angry and even mean sometimes, just like anybody else can–though it’s hardly characteristic of me, by the grace of God.

What bothers me is when people accuse me of being angry or mean just to try to shut me up! Without taking any time to explain to me where I’m going wrong, and definitely without bothering to address the issues that I am talking about–such as what is wrong with me for being a angry that nearly 50 million innocent and helpless children have been barbarically killed in this country since 1973, and that our new president-elect doesn’t seem that bothered by it.

I don’t need anybody to tell me that anger and meanness are bad.  My moral compass may not be perfect, but it is a little more fine-tuned than that, thanks.  And the fact is, anger is not always the same thing as meanness.  Anger is not always opposed to love and peace.  And anger about ideas and actions is not the same as anger toward persons… just because I tear ideas and actions to shreds, doesn’t mean I want to hurt the person who thinks/does them.  Quite to the contrary, actually… it’s usually a matter of wanting to save the person.

I don’t need anybody insinuating that I’m a bad Christian, or that Christians in general are bad, if I express anger–that’s nothing but a cowardly ad hominem attack, and I have no patience for such nonsense when I’m talking about important, often literally life-and-death issues such as abortion.

I don’t need anybody to try to convince me that the world is full of love and peace when, in fact, it’s full of violence and injustice–neither of which I can be indifferent to, much less OK with.  I can’t “accept” or “tolerate” or “be non-judgmental about” such things.  I can’t, and I won’t, for the sake of my immortal soul.

I don’t need anybody to try to distract me from the fact that I, and all of us, are locked in a life-long spiritual war with extremely real temporal and eternal consequences.  The war is currently getting more heated now than ever.  The fact that we know the war is ultimately won does not excuse any of us from not engaging in battle.

This is what it comes down to:  When I die, I really don’t want God to look at me and ask why I fiddled while the world burned. I don’t want to be the servant with 1 talent from this Sunday’s Gospel reading. I know what kind of Master I serve… He may be Love Itself, but He isn’t always “nice.”  Not when being nice would endanger the ones He loves.  He may be a Lamb, but He’s also a Lion.  And He put a little bit of the Lion within each of us, too… He is our Father, after all, and we’re meant to be like Him.

Say I was a mother with children… would I be expected to be nice all the time?  Would I be considered mean if I got angry because somebody or something was threatening my children, or because they were doing something to endanger themselves?

Right now, I may be unmarried and not have biological children, but I’m still a mother in my own way.  Actually, in a much wider, universal sense.  I’m a daughter of the Blessed Mother, and her love is not only for her Son, but for all people, and the entire world.  Such is my love, at least at this point in my life.  When I see things hurting my society, my country, my Church, or the world at large, or when I see them doing things to endanger themselves, I’m not just going to do nothing, or keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes, I pray.  Sometimes I write.  Sometimes I do something more confrontational.  Sometimes I get angry.

If I were to do nothing, I would convict myself of a sin of omission!  And I do sometimes.  Sometimes I’m weak.  Sometimes I’m timid.  Sometimes I’m lazy.  Sometimes I’m cowardly.  Sometimes I’m selfish and just don’t want to be bothered.  Sometimes I abandon people to their folly because I think they deserve it.  These are the things that come from a lack of love!  And nobody chides me for those failings… nobody but the Holy Spirit speaking through my conscience.

In any case, things haven’t changed much since last October… I’m still sticking to my guns!  I pray that all my fellow Catholics do the same!  Keep on fighting the good fight, and for mercy’s sake, don’t let anybody shut you up by calling you a big meanie!

Wow.  Our bishops keep outdoing themselves!  Here is the latest from Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who has already issued a number of powerful statements (with my emphases):

Warriors with Our Eyes Fixed on Heaven

Last Saturday I had the privilege of consecrating the restored church of Old St. Patrick. This is the oldest existing Catholic church in Kansas City. It will serve as the Oratory for the Latin Mass community which first began here under Bishop John Sullivan, and for many years has shared the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows.

One of the beauties of the Traditional Latin High Mass that I celebrated is that it highlights a most profound aspect of the Mass, namely our participation with the Communion of Saints. The high altar, multiple candles, incense and Gregorian chant, collectively give us a striking image of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is our ultimate home. Every Mass celebrates this reality, but I must admit that the traditional Mass captured this magnificent expression of the ultimate hope and goal of Christians in a powerful way. We should reflect on this often, because the ultimate goal of everything we do is to get ourselves to heaven and bring with us as many as we can.

The month of November begins with the two great celebrations: All Saints day (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). These feasts celebrate our communion with the “Church triumphant” in heaven, and the “Church suffering” in purgatory. Today I would like to share a few brief comments about what we have sometimes called the “Church militant,” the Church here on earth.

We, the Church on earth, have a very special challenge as participants in the grace and life of Jesus Christ to “fight” against the enemies of Christ’s justice and truth and light and life. We must be attentive to the demands of this daily “battle” in a peaceable but serious manner.

I am sometimes amazed at the casual manner with which Christians, Catholics included, take up our life within what Pope John Paul II rightly called the “culture of death.” The Church, by comparison, reminds us that we are engaged – by reason of our Baptism and Confirmation – in a battle, “not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities and powers, with the rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in heaven.” (Eph 6:12) Jesus Christ has won the ultimate battle, but we, in the course of our human life must make our choice, determining on whose side we will live and die. Whose side will you choose?!

What is at stake in this battle is our immortal soul, our salvation. My responsibility as bishop is with the eternal destiny of those entrusted to my care. My total energies must be directed to the well being of those who otherwise may come under the spell of a radically flawed and fundamentally distorted moral sense, at odds with what our Mother the Church teaches. There are objective and transcendent truths. There is such a thing as right and wrong. There is a legitimate hierarchy of moral evils, and the direct willful destruction of human life can never be justified; it can never be supported. Do you believe this firm teaching of the Church?

Did you know that in Canada priests and Christian ministers have already been brought before tribunals for preaching and teaching in support of marriage? They are charged with “hate speech” against homosexuality. In light of the tyranny of choice growing each day in our own beloved country, we ought to be ready for similar attacks on religious freedom. We must not fail to preach the Gospel. We can not withhold the truth of our faith. That is why I will never be silent about human life. It is why I am proud of so many others – bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity – who are not afraid to speak out about the values that matter most. What about you?!

Our Lord told His apostles that they would be hated by the world, just as He was. Nearly all of them died a martyr’s death. As warriors in the Church militant, we must never resort to violence. But we must stand up fearlessly against the agents of death, the enemies of human life. Human beings are not Satan, but we know too well that they can come under his spell. They can become willing agents of death, numbed and poisoned in this culture of death. What about you?!

As we begin this month of November, the month of the Church, let us call upon the Saints to inspire us, befriend us, and pray for us. Let us offer many prayers and sacrifices for the poor souls who have gone before us. They need our meritorious suffrages to help them reach heaven.

And let us resolve to be warriors of the Church militant; warriors with our eyes fixed on heaven. Let us ask God’s mercy and strength to persevere in our call – individual and collective – to holiness. Mary, Mother of the Church, Pray for us!

AMEN and AMEN!!!  What a bracing and exciting letter!  As Catholics, does it not lift our spirits and give us courage to hear a bishop address us members of the Church Militant?  More bishops and priests need to talk to their flocks this way!  Call us to greatness!  Call us to strength!  Call us to courage!  Call us to loyalty!  Keep us focused on our objectives!  Be our generals in the battle!

I love the way Bishop Finn directs pointed questions each of us.  “What about you?!”  “Whose side will you choose?!”  “Do you believe…?”  Each and every one of us has a choice and a responsibility.  We each have to answer these questions, and answer definitively.  No fence-sitting, no hemming and hawing.  We’re accountable for our answers and for how we bear them out.  Our immortal souls, and possibly those of others, rely on it.

God bless Bishop Finn and the other bishops who have spoken faithfully and mightily!

While Iraqi Christians have long suffered persecution and violence, it seems to have escalated lately.  I can’t even imagine the horror.  (With my emphases and comments):
Archbishop Louis Sako

.- Following planned murders, violence, and threats targeting Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the country’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has decided to deploy 1,000 policemen to protect the religious minority. The prime minister also opened an investigation into the attacks.  [God bless his efforts; I hope they have a positive effect.]

On Sunday, the day of the announcement, a Christian businessman was killed and his nephew wounded in a drive-by shooting in Mosul. The attacks against Christians continued to take place in Mosul on Monday as the owner of a Christian music store was killed, adding to a three week long string of attacks, which has claimed the lives of thirteen Christians.

According to SIR, the prime minister’s office has stated: “two brigades of the national police have been deployed in Mosul, which is considered by the USA and the Iraqi government to be Al Qaeda’s last stronghold in the country.”

Provincial governor Duraid Kashmula reported this past Saturday that the spike in violence has led to an exodus of about 3,000 Christian families from Mosul, which he said was the worst since the outbreak of war in 2003.

Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako responded to the attacks by charging that Christians are met with an “unacceptable silence” at the global level. [They’re only Christians, after all.  If this kind of persecution were happening to anybody else, I don’t think there would be such silence.  Indian Christians have been faced with the same silence.] The archbishop said many Christians in Mosul no longer go to school or work for fear of harassment by Islamic radicals.

Some employers are telling Christians to stay home because they cannot guarantee their safety.

“At the end of the day, these assassins are damaging the image of Islam,” Archbishop Sako told the Italian daily Avvenire, adding that Iraqi imams have the duty to condemn the persecution in Mosul.

The archbishop believed that Christian pastors had also “missed the mark,” claiming there was a lack of “clear and unified ecclesiastical discourse.”

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal for Christians who are persecuted all over the world, specially referencing India and Iraq.  [His seems to be the only global voice speaking out… are people listening?]

And here is another article… a rather chilling and impassioned plea from a priest:

Fr. Philip Najim

.- Father Philip Najim of the Patriarchate of Babylonia of the Chaldeans, warned this week that violent anti-Christian violence carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq has turned the country “into a place of death, a country in which the death and harming of defenseless people has become an industry.”

In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, Father Najim explained that with this wave of violence, those paying the price are “the Christian communities of Mosul, which in recent days have suffered persecution.  Just today (Sunday) alone, one thousand people have had to abandon their homes after threats from unscrupulous terrorist groups.”

After pointing out the Church’s work to help people by offering them refuge in monasteries and convents, Father Najim said Mosul is currently “a prisoner of dark forces, of criminal gangs who want to postpone and block any peace process that the Iraqis wish to reach.

“The situation in Mosul has gotten worse,” he continued.  “There is a sinister interest in getting rid of the Christians in this city.  This is a black policy which does not favor man, it´s not a policy that seeks to improve the situation and bring democracy to the country.  We cannot have peace when life is not respected, especially human life, which is a natural right and above all a gift from God.”

Father Najim said the Government “is doing nothing” and that the international community is silent.  “The occupational forces in Iraq also contribute to destabilizing the country, because they are not able to guarantee peace. No one cares about us or about Iraq.  In this interview I want to get everyone’s attention so that they will intervene and put an end to the violence and respect life,” the priest said.

Fr. Najim’s language brings to mind Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”  This is very true in every instance where human life is not respected.  Such lack of respect may have human agents, but there is nothing human about it.

Our Lord taught that some demons cannot be cast out but by prayer and fasting.  I understand that.  And I’m trying to do my part in that respect.

Still, I wish I could think of something I could do in addition to help our brethren in Iraq and other lands torn by war, terror, and persecution.  It’s so overwhelming sometimes.  And I fell very helpless sometimes.  But there is no room in this battle for feeling helpless.  We each just have to do as St. Paul says:  “Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground” (Eph. 6:13). 

Each of us just has to hold our own ground. Each of us taking that responsibility ultimately works to the benefit of all our brethren.

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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